CROOK COUNTY, WY – Two ranchers face property destruction charges after using bleach to paint markings, including drawings of male genitalia, on a total of 189 cows and six bulls belonging to their neighbor.
The father-son duo claimed their actions were intended to bring their neighbor’s attention to the problem of broken fences that weren’t being fixed quickly enough. The markings led to an estimated $141,750 loss in the value of the cattle.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, the Crook County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint from a county rancher on June 21, stating that a neighbor had “bleached” his cows.
The alleged victim stated that his employee had noticed cattle had escaped their pasture and were on Sean Carroll’s land. Another ranch hand was notified and was able to make it over to that area within a few hours to put them back, but could not find any out.
That evening, the employee and her father went to Carrol’s corrals to retrieve the horses they had left there that morning after they finished helping with the Carrol’s branding.
According to court documents, they observed the corral to be full of cattle that Carroll was “marking” with bleach while two other men were helping push the cattle through the alley and chute.
According to the affidavit, the bleach was a peroxide mixture commonly used to mark cattle. The employee recognized the cattle as belonging to the victim and quickly loaded their horses and left after taking a picture of the cattle in the corral.
Pictures were also taken the next day, when the cattle were found back in the victim’s pasture. Pictured were heifers that had been bleached all along their backs; some had marks around the face and one had, “what appeared to be a drawing of male genitalia on the rib rea,” according to the affidavit.
The victim inquired about criminal charges for the loss of value of the bred heifers, which he planned to sell in the next couple of months. The victim explained the markings would drastically decrease the value.
Meanwhile, the victim was asked about the fence between the properties. He explained that it crosses a creek several times and with all the recent rain, the water gaps get washed out and the cows can move right through the fence once the water goes down. The victim stated that an arrangement had in the works to address the cost of repairs but said that any deal with Carroll was off after the bleaching incident.
He also stated that after the incident his ranch hand had rebuilt several water gaps in an attempt to fix the problems, while Carroll had sat on is porch, “just watching them.”
On July 3, the deputy returned to the ranch with a Wyoming livestock investigator and two Wyoming brand inspectors. The brand inspectors verified that all the cattle belonged to the victim and noted 189 heifers and six bulls with bleach marks.
The cattle were also inspected by a veterinarian for injuries resulting from the bleach. Some of the initial pictures showed a paste-like residue that indicated it was mixed very thick. Few instances of skin irritation or damage were found however, and there was no eye damage.
The markings were photographed. According to the deputy’s report, they ranged from a football-sized spot on the back to marks all over the face and around the eyes, to marks all the way down the spine and several male genitalia drawings.
A local cattle dealer with whom the victim often does business was asked for input on the affect the markings might have. The dealer, who sells up to 40,000 head of bred heifers every year, suggested the markings might lower the price between $500 and $700 per head.
The livestock investigator also stated that the markings would cause a significant loss in value because ranchers will interpret the bleached markings to mean there is a problem with the animal – or may simply not like the look of them compared to an unmarked animal.
After speaking with several buyers, the dealer later provided valuations for the heifers of $2,600 per head in normal condition and $1,850 per head with the markings. Using those numbers, the total loss for the 189 heifers would be $141,750.
The deputy spoke with Sean Carroll who said he would, “love to talk about what happened.” He stated that he has leased the ranch since 2014. Over the last few years the number of victim’s cows that get through the fence has increased to the point there were, “hundreds of cows out” at a time.
Carroll stated that he found it frustrating when he called the victim to let him know and was met with a reaction described as “laid back like it’s not a big deal.” According to Carroll, it sometimes takes a few days for the cows to be moved back.
Carroll allegedly admitted the fence is old and in poor condition but said that they try to fix problems when they see them.
According to court reports, Carroll admitted that he had decided it was time to get the victim’s attention. He, along with his son Tucker and another man (who later stated that he was helping out and did not know what was actually happening), used the bleach and “marked them up pretty good.”
Tucker confirmed the story according to court reports. He statde that the idea was to make a statement, because, “enough was enough.”
Patrick Sean Carroll now faces two felony counts of property destruction and defacement carrying maximum penalties of 10 years of prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.
Tucker Carroll faces two felony counts of property destruction and defacement and one felony count of aiding property destruction and defacement, carrying the same potential penalties.